I am an Associate Professor of Geography at Western University, in London, Canada, where I have worked since 2004. I am originally from Waterloo, and earned my PhD from Queen’s University in 2003. Both my research and teaching are broadly located in the field of political ecology; my research focuses mainly on agriculture, and my teaching has largely revolved around subjects of environmental change, conservation, development, and inequality.
My research interests were initially focused on the nexus of environment and development problems facing small farmers in Jamaica. In Jamaica, I combined research on the country’s political economic history, enduring land inequalities, neoliberal policy restructuring, and shifting trade patterns, with a locally grounded approach which was centered on extensive fieldwork with small farmers and attention to their interpretations of problems and possibilities. Entwined with this was interest in land reform and farmer co-operatives.
Attention to the wider political economic context of small farmer livelihoods – in particular structural adjustment and intensifying global market integration – led me towards my first book: The Global Food Economy: The Battle for the Future of Farming (2007). In it, I attempted to understand the structural imbalances, social tensions, and ecological instabilities in the global system of agricultural production and trade, how this system came to be, and how it might be transformed. Since the publication of The Global Food Economy, the problems and inequalities it identifies have further intensified. One reflection of this is the increasing volatility of world food markets, which is tied to worsening conditions of food insecurity in many of the world’s poorest countries. A fundamental part of this crisis, I have argued, lies in the chronic biophysical contradictions of industrial capitalist agriculture, and how they are now accelerating.
This research led me to The Ecological Hoofprint: The Global Burden of Industrial Livestock (2013). The growth of industrial livestock production is a major aspect of world agriculture, as it commands roughly one-third of all arable land (through its heavy pull on grain and oilseed supplies), and bears heavily on world markets, food security, dietary change, many serious environmental problems, and the nature of human relations with other animals.The Ecological Hoofprint attempts to provide a new way of understanding how these issues are interwoven, and why they must be urgently confronted.